“Kindergarten Ready” means something different than it did 20 years ago. Kindergarten has been called the “new first grade,” especially since the addition of Common Core. The Common Core was created with a top-down approach; what do students need to know leaving high school? From there they figured what they need to know by the end of 11th grade, 10th, and so on. By the time they got down to 1st grade and Kindergarten, suddenly children are being expected to accomplish dramatically more than before. Whereas before it was doable for a child to not know how to read fluently until the end of 1st grade, now children need to know how to read by mid-Kindergarten to be “successful.”
With the increased expectations for Kindergarten, it’s more nerve-wracking than ever for parents to wonder if their child is Kindergarten ready. From my experience working in early childhood, many parents seem to be choosing to send their children to Kindergarten on the later end of the age requirement.
(To find your state and when Kindergarten becomes compulsory, go here.)
I did my student learning in college in two different Kindergarten classrooms and conducting my senior research on Play-Based Learning for Kindergarten Readiness. Now I’m an early childhood teacher in a “Kinder-prep” classroom. Here is my perspective on the top signs that your child is ready for Kindergarten.
Kindergarten and First grade teachers are working their tushies off trying to meet the new expectations with what they know to be developmentally appropriate. These foundational skills will help your child succeed and help their teacher help them succeed.
1. CAN THEY LISTEN TO A TEACHER?
Or some other adult besides their parents? In Kindergarten they are one of 20-30 children that a single teacher is in charge of wrangling AND teaching! There are good reasons why many teachers don’t stay in Kindergarten for long and tend to either go into early education or older grades: It’s exhausting!
If your child’s preschool teacher or babysitter reports that they are a good listener, this is a great sign! They need to be able to line up, sit at circle, and follow directions for activities or lessons.
2. CAN THEY SOLVE MINOR PROBLEMS ON THEIR OWN?
Like I said, a single teacher in charge of 20-30 five and six-year-olds! If your child can solve minor problems without an adult’s help, for example how to share a box of crayons, or blowing their own nose, this is a great sign. Obviously, they’re never going to be outside of the teacher’s supervision, but some independence is essential.
3. DO THEY HAVE BASIC SOCIAL SKILLS?
Can they share? Can they stand up for themselves? Ask questions? Walk in line without pushing? Express their emotions?
Most five-year-olds will still need help for the big things, but they should be able to hold their own in a social setting.
4. CAN THEY HOLD A PENCIL CORRECTLY?
Or crayon, or marker. So many children these days are skilled at touch screens and computers, but not with their fine motor skills! Kindergarteners practice their writing a lot, so knowing how to hold a pencil is very helpful.
[Check out 67 Playful Ways to Boost Fine Motor Skills]
5. DO THEY KNOW THE ABC’S?
Back when most of us were children we weren’t expected to learn how to read until the end of first grade. Now Kindergarteners need to learn by mid-year. It’s not necessary or developmentally appropriate to push reading on our preschoolers (in fact, studies show there are no long term benefits of this! Read a research article on that here.) but knowing their ABC’s and recognizing their name is a great leg up.
6. CAN THEY COUNT TO TEN?
Part of my research for my senior paper was interviewing a kindergarten teacher. I was surprised when she said the only math that’s necessary is understanding 1 through 10. She told me that counting to 100 and basic addition or subtraction is helpful, but not necessary.
7. IS YOUR FAMILY KINDERGARTEN READY?
Honestly, at the end of the day, are you ready? Is your child really ready for this next step? I’ve met several children who, from my perspective, were Kindergarten ready. You could check all these boxes for them and then some. But the families chose to delay Kindergarten one more year for one reason or another.
Maybe they decided that they love the flexibility that early childhood care gives their family (we won’t report anyone to CPS if they take a 2-week vacation missing school!) Or maybe they’re moving to a new city mid year and would prefer to start fresh in their new town. Or maybe they want their child to be the “big kid” in later years for sports.
But the most common reason I’ve heard: they aren’t ready for their child’s carefree and playful early childhood to be over. Parents are becoming more aware of just how rigorous Kindergarten has become and they don’t feel a rush to push their child into that.
Most states give families a little wiggle room for what age our children must be in school. That leaves the final decision up to the family. Is your child ready for Kindergarten? Their preschool teacher may be able to tell you where they are socially or academically, but you’re the final judge of whether they (and you) are really ready.